I am interested in the ecological and evolutionary questions concerning plant reproduction. I am particularly curious about the processes that generate and maintain genetic variation in characters that appear to have obvious effects on reproductive success of plants in natural population. In the past I have combined observation from natural populations, manipulative experiments in the greenhouse and in common gardens, quantitative genetics and molecular evolution approaches in my studies. Though I consider myself an empirical biologist, I am very fond of theoretical studies, and have occasionally done some theoretical investigation for factors difficult to study empirically.
Past research topics include: (1) evolution of selfing in Ipomoea purpurea, (2) molecular evolution of a regulatory gene that influences flower pigmentation in Ipomoea purpurea and (3) characteristics of the spontaneous mutation in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Recently, my research has been focusing on questions relating to the evolution of plant mating systems. There are two main lines of research that are currently ongoing in my lab: (I) Gender specific selection in hermaphroditic plants, and (II) Evolution of separate sexes in plants.
For my dissertation I am exploring the relationship between Spotted Geranium (Geranium maculatum) and its arbuscular mycorrhizal partners. G. maculatum is a gynodioecious plant species, meaning in some populations there are both hermaphroditic individuals as well as male-sterile, or “female” individuals. Through a survey and multiple greenhouse experiments, I am investigating what shapes the variation in this interaction across time and space, and within the context of the plant’s sexual system.